By Kevin Hogencamp
It’s one thing that the City of Albany’s mishap spilled feces and other raw sewage into two Albany houses last December, forcing the residents to abandon the comfort of their houses over Christmas while repairs were made.
But did city hall pay for the damages to one of the homes – and not the other?
That’s exactly what has happened, with the Albany City Commission’s blessing, out of spite for an elderly couple because they sought personal-injury damages in addition to the property damage settlement agreed upon by city hall, according to public records and statements by City officials.
Evidence in the matter also shows that City Attorney Nathan Davis falsely state during a television interview that the Freeneys’ case had been settled.
Linda and George Freeney provide details of their complaint in a lawsuit filed in Dougherty County Superior Court supported by public records and notes of statements that city officials made to reporters after sewage backed up into the Freeneys’ home on Forest Glen Drive. While City workers were working on a nearby sewer line, sewage entered the Freeneys’ and Helen and Orvis Powells’ homes through the toilets with so much force that it splattered on their walls. The Powells were paid for their claim against the city earlier this year.
The Freeneys are requesting that they be reimbursed $29,902 for costs associated with the spill – a settlement already approved by the City. Further, in an effort not to confuse the City’s agreement to pay for repairs with the Freeneys’ effort to receive personal-injury damages, the Freeneys are asking the court to force the City to be “immediately restrained and enjoined from publically by innuendo, insinuation, or otherwise from threatening or harassing the Freeneys or from revealing confidential offers of settlement relating to any personal injury offers and counteroffers and from discussing or disclosing in public matters germane to any offers of settlement in any way related to the sewage incident which impacted the Freeneys in the public media or otherwise …”
The Freeneys are represented by the Albany law firm Margeson, Flynn & Associates. The City is being represented by Assistant City Attorney Jenise Smith.
According to the lawsuit and substantiated by records produced by the Freeneys, City officials agreed on May 25 to pay the $29,902 for property damages to the Freeneys’ home.
But as of this week, the check has yet to be issued, as promised.
“During the next several days after the May 25th conference … there were ongoing calls and various written correspondence between the City of Albany and the Freeneys’ attorney whereby additional offers and counteroffers were made by both sides attempting to also settle the Freeneys’ personal injury claim in addition to the previously settled property damage claim,” the lawsuit states.
The Freeneys’ attorney issued a written counteroffer to the city on May 27, stating that if the City did not accept the offer by June 1, “we will pick up the PD (property damage) check as originally agreed on Thursday of next week, June 3, 2010, at the office of (city risk manager) Veronica Wright and will continue with our planned PI (personal injury) litigation accordingly.”
On June 1, after the Freeneys withdrew their offer due to the City not responding, the City attempted to accept the Freeneys’ offer, and the Freeneys declined. The City then responded by issuing the Freeneys a check for the amount of property and personal injury damages the Freeneys offered on May 27, and the Freeneys’ attorney returned the check.
From there, the situation got worse, the Freeneys claim, culminating with Davis claiming in a news report that the Freeneys had accepted a $58,431 settlement, which was “a misstatement that there was a settlement between the parties when there was, in fact, no settlement in view of the Freeneys’ June 1, 2010 revocation letter,” the lawsuit states.
Further, Davis violated “the City’s own covenant to keep all offers confidential,” the lawsuit states, and the City further damaged the Freeneys by “placing the Freeneys in a bad light because they revoked their counteroffer to the City of Albany, which was their constitutional right to do so, without giving an explanation of the extent of the Freeneys’ losses and harms and the suffering they have gone through and are continuing to go through because of this tragic sewage incident.”
City officials refuse to comment on the matter.